How to Write an Admission Essay: Top Tips From Expert Writers

October 24, 2023

So you’ve already taken all your exams, selected your target colleges, and completed your applications. What’s next?

Once the biggest part of your admission process is behind, it’s time to handle one of the most substantial parts of your application and write a killer essay that will impress the admissions committee.

An admission essay plays a huge role in your college application process. It tells target schools more about you and emphasizes what makes you a good fit for them. Needless to say, writing a truly impressive essay isn’t easy. But we prepared the ultimate guide to help you ace it like a pro!

What Is an Admission Essay?

An admission essay is also often called an application essay, a personal statement, or a statement of purpose. It is a short piece of writing crafted by an applicant. Most often, this piece of writing is created by prospective students in the process of applying to a college, university, or graduate school.

A personal statement makes up a substantial part of a student’s application package. Unlike your application form, transcripts, teacher recommendations, and other formal documents included in the application, an admission essay focuses on your personality rather than your academic achievements. 

In this piece, an applicant can showcase their unique objectives, interests, and experiences to tell the admission committee why they should be accepted to a particular school.

Purpose of Admission Essay Writing

As was stated earlier, most documents inside your college application are used to assess your academic performance. An admission essay, on the contrary, is used to help admissions officers see who you are beyond your achievements, extracurriculars, and test scores. 

It gives you an opportunity to stand out from the crowd. With the help of your statement, you can tell a personal story that will complement your academic achievements.

Admissions committees use admission essay writing to evaluate your:

  • Personality and character;
  • Writing skills;
  • Leadership, critical thinking, and other crucial life skills;
  • Values and objectives;
  • Ability to self-reflect.

Lastly, a personal statement is also used to assess how you can contribute to the potential school’s and overall academic community. Your goal is to use it to the maximum and leave a lasting impression on the officers to make them accept your application.

Types of Admission Essay

Before we tell you how to write a college admission essay step by step, it’s important to note that these essays come in different types. The types of admission essays mostly differ in their core idea. 

Here are some of the most common types:

  • Personal statement (an essay that tells your personal story);
  • Academic interest essay;
  • Why “this school” essay;
  • Interests/activities essay;
  • Personal challenge essay;
  • Social consciousness essay, etc.

Sometimes, you will have a chance to pick the type of essay you want to write. But often, colleges and universities will offer you specific prompts and instructions to follow.

Topic Ideas for a Perfect Admission Essay

An important stage of the writing process is the choice of a topic. A good admission essay topic should be personal and engaging, and it should give you an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.

Here are some winning ideas to try:

  1. A time/situation when I failed something and how I overcame the problem.
  2. A facet of my identity/a story from the past that made me who I am today.
  3. A time when I challenged my long-established worldview. Why did this happen, and what I learned from it?
  4. The biggest life lesson I’ve learned so far.
  5. The role of a certain activity (e.g., sports, arts, etc.) in your life.
  6. The person I admire the most and why.
  7. My biggest personal achievement beyond school that I’m proud of.
  8. A time /situation when I had to stand up for my beliefs.
  9. A topic/idea/activity that I’m passionate about.
  10. A problem I had to solve and how I handled it.

How to Write an Admission Essay Step by Step

If you are getting ready to enroll in college but have no clue how to start an admission essay, you’ve come to the right place. In the guide below, we will tell you about the primary steps that will help you handle this task easily and ensure the best outcomes.

Pick a Meaningful Topic

If you are wondering how to write an essay for university admission that will impress the committee, start with your topic. A compelling and engaging topic will enable you to tell a resonating story that will set you apart from the competition.

A perfect topic is something you truly care about. If it holds personal meaning to you, you will be able to handle the writing process with more motivation.

Keep the Focus on You

As you already know, admission essays are used by colleges to learn more about their potential students and their personalities. Thus, focusing on you is the best approach to this paper.

Even if you are writing an essay about other people who inspire you or play an important role in your life, keep the primary focus of the story on how they affected you, your worldview, or your life as a whole.

Use Specific Details and Examples

Providing details and examples is one of the best tips on how to write an essay for college admission. Regardless of the topic of your admission essay, vivid details and real-life examples should be there to portray your experiences, skills, and accomplishments.

For example, if you want to emphasize your leadership skills, don’t just say that you are a leader. Instead, illustrate a real example of a situation when you demonstrated your leadership skills.

Reveal Something Unique About Yourself

The core goal of your admission essay is to show the committee what distinguishes you from other students. To demonstrate this, you should use some unique facts about you as hooks for admission essay.

For example, telling the committee that you are passionate about sculpting or winning a medal for sports can demonstrate your uniqueness to them and highlight how you can contribute to the school’s community.

Tell a Story

One common mistake students make in their admission essays is making them a retrospective of their entire life. This is the wrong approach.

Instead of telling the story of your entire life, focus on one or a few strong stories. Pick stories that represent your best personality traits, interests, strong skills, etc. Use your essay to share meaningful stories that will set you apart and engage the admissions committee.

Don’t Forget to Proofread Your Admission Essay

Finally, the last and one of the most important admission essay writing tips is to always proofread your paper. After finishing your essay, set it aside for some time. Then, get back to it with a fresh sight and fine-tune your work for organization, clarity, grammar correctness, and other things.

Ideally, give your paper two or more read-throughs. And don’t hesitate to let someone else proofread it for you to get constructive feedback.

What to Avoid in Your Admission Essay

Your Life of Privilege

When talking about the challenges you’ve faced in your life, stay away from topics that might demonstrate a privileged lifestyle. For example, don’t call a common athletic injury or a tough choice of a suitable college as a huge obstacle in your life.

Always think about what other applicants might write about. Remember that others may face much more serious obstacles in their life. So don’t let your essay sound like you are living a privileged lifestyle and are unaware of other people’s struggles.

Your Grades, Test Scores, and Academic Achievements

Of course, your academic performance and grades matter to potential colleges. They directly affect whether you will be accepted to a chosen school or not. However, there is no need to duplicate them in your essay.

Your application package already contains a lot of information on your achievements, test scores, and grades. Instead of duplicating it, use your essay to tell the admissions committee something they don’t know about you yet.

Your Pet

Pretty much everyone loves animals. They are fluffy, playful, and fun. And we bet that your beloved pets are awesome, too. But this doesn’t make them a good topic for your admission essay.

The truth is that pet-related topics are way too hackneyed. Experts claim that admissions officers hate them. So, if you really want your application to stand out, we recommend picking a more personalized topic and avoiding stories about your pets.

Cliches and Trite Quotations

This one should go without saying. Admissions officers read hundreds of application essays every year, so be sure that they are sick and tired of cliches and trite expressions.

To stand out from the crowd, your admission essay needs to demonstrate your unique personality and originality of thought. If you use common and banal expressions, it can show you as an unimaginative or simply lazy applicant. So, be sure to avoid cliches and be more creative instead.

Your Criminal Record

Sometimes, past missteps with the law can be powerful drivers of personal development and success. They can teach people a lot of valuable lessons. And people admire stories of outsiders who overcome their challenges and achieve something great.

Nevertheless, if you have a certain criminal record, revealing it in your essay isn’t the best way to drive attention. Quite the opposite ‒ it will only show you in a negative light.

Grammar and Spelling Mistakes

Apart from trying to learn more about you, admissions officers use your application essays to assess your writing skills and general literacy.

An essay that’s full of grammar, structure, spelling, and other mistakes will illustrate your inability to proofread and edit your work. Needless to say, this will leave a rather negative impression on you, even if the content of your essay is brilliant. Thus, you should always strive to submit an error-free work. 

Different Admission Essay Formats

Generally, an admission essay format consists of the following key elements:

  • A title. Including it in your admission essay is not obligatory, but it can help you create a bit more interest.
  • A hook. It can be pretty much anything that gauges engagement, such as a rhetorical question, quote, shocking statement, etc. ‒ whatever grabs the readers’ attention.
  • An introduction. It’s an opening part of your piece that introduces the topic.
  • Body paragraphs. The body should consist of two or more paragraphs focusing on your topic and showcasing your uniqueness.
  • A logical conclusion. It should wrap up everything you’ve stated in your paper.

You can easily craft a logical and compelling piece following this universal formula. However, to get the best results, you want to adjust your approach to writing based on the specific type of admission essay that you are writing.

For example, when writing an MBA admission essay, you want to focus on your business-related interests and objectives. One of the crucial personality traits to showcase is leadership. Be sure to emphasize it through various stories that show what makes you a strong leader.

When writing a nursing admission essay, it’s always a good idea to tell the committee about your journey. Tell them how you became interested in nursing, how you were cultivating knowledge in this area throughout the years, and what goals you want to achieve with your degree.

Finally, if you are writing a Harvard admission essay, you want to showcase the best of you in all areas. Tell the committee about your unique experiences, including intellectual, extracurricular, travel, employment, etc. Also, talk about your contribution to the community and stress how Harvard education can help you attain your future objectives.

Admission Essay Example

Now that you know how to write a compelling essay one step at a time, let us help you get started on your paper and ace it like a pro. Below is an admission essay example that will help you learn what this piece should look like and hopefully will inspire you to write your own.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling of Formal Gender Roles

Our beliefs are the driving force of molding our worldviews, defining our limits, and sculpting our destinies. Often, the core life beliefs are pre-determined for us from the start. They are deeply rooted in our beings and molded by our parents, family, and community. And while some in-born beliefs can act as stepping stones to our deepest aspirations, others could become serious stumbling blocks on our path to self-discovery and dreams. Sometimes, our beliefs can determine the ceiling that we can reach in life, and breaking it is only possible through challenging what you’ve believed once. For me, challenging my beliefs became a thorny yet inspiring journey of empowerment.

I first faced gender-specific social and behavioral “norms” when I was a child. Growing up as the only girl in a house with four brothers, I quickly learned that some paths, activities, and interests were simply off-limits to me because of my gender. This belief was rooted so deeply in the minds of people in my family and community. So, they inevitably sowed seeds of apprehension, fear, and self-doubt in my own mind.

For years, my dreams and aspirations were overshadowed by the traditional “norms.” Whenever I wanted to do or try something, I just knew that I might not be “enough” to handle it. And this went on and on until I joined a debate club in my high school. It’s here, in the epicenter of fierce debates, that I started learning how to challenge beliefs, think critically, and stand for what I feel is right.

Throughout my years in the debate club, I researched different topics and debated them with other students, both boys and girls. This empowering experience helped me challenge one of my most destructive beliefs ‒ the thought that my ceiling is determined by my gender. 

Many hours of self-reflection and nights spent on feminist literature helped me break that belief further. I discovered thousands of inspiring stories of strong, independent, and successful women who have reached their goals despite deeply rooted “norms” and social judgment.

Now, applying to college, I finally know who I am and who I want to be, though my exciting journey is still not over. I’m determined to earn a degree in psychology to help me complete my own journey and then use the knowledge I obtain to help other girls and women across the world know that they are just enough and worth everything they are dreaming about.

Indeed, the power of belief is strong. But the power of challenging your own beliefs is the path to liberation and your true self. So, I’m looking forward to continuing to challenge my own and others’ beliefs to make this world a better place.

FAQ: What Do People Want to Know About Admission Essay Writing?

What do colleges look for in admission essays?

Colleges are typically looking for three core things in your application paper:

  • Strong writing skills;
  • An authentic voice;
  • A unique perspective.

Some officers claim that the best essays are the ones that make the committee feel like the student is sitting next to them in the room, sharing their story with the officers in person.

Additionally, an admission essay format is used by committees to see your creativity, proactivity, ambition, passions, future goals, etc. All in all, they want to learn what makes you a good fit for a particular school and program. So, this is what you must focus on.

How much does an admission essay matter?

Although not all students realize this, admission essay writing is actually a win-or-lose deal. Essays are integral elements of your applications, and they often play a significant role in the admissions procedure.

According to a study by CollegeVine, essays account for 25% of your success if you apply to the top 250 schools. An essay contributes to your success more than your recommendations (10%), test scores (15%), and even your grades (20%).

The only part of your application that’s valued slightly more than your essay is the extracurriculars section. It accounts for 30% of your overall application.

How long are admission essays?

Admission essays can vary in length. Some colleges may require very concise statements (under 250 words), whereas others can give you two or more pages to introduce yourself and showcase your strengths.

Most often, your target college will provide guidelines for writing, including the word count. Be sure to check with the school’s official demands and keep them in mind.

If the word limit isn’t specified, you can stick to the universal admission essay length ‒ 250 to 650 words. This is a slightly longer word count. However, we recommend choosing it to have more space for impressing the committee with your story.

How many paragraphs should an admission essay have?

Unfortunately, there are no universal admission essay writing tips or rules concerning the number of paragraphs. Depending on the given word count, your essay can have a different number of paragraphs. And whatever number you choose, it should be fine as long as your paragraphs flow logically and provide the admissions committee with valuable information.

Still, there is a universal rule of thumb for essays. The standard structure for this work is a five-paragraph essay. This structure means having one introduction and conclusion paragraphs and three body paragraphs.

Whatever number of paragraphs you choose, be sure to stick to the word limit.

How can I impress a college admissions officer?

While there is no one-size-fits-all formula for success, there are a few simple tips that should help you make the best impression:

  • Be prepared. Research the school carefully before admission essay writing to understand its values, vision, and admission requirements.
  • Emphasize your uniqueness. Don’t be afraid to talk about your passions, achievements, and other things that make you stand out.
  • Showcase your strongest skills. Demonstrate your leadership, problem-solving, critical thinking, and other core life skills through real-life examples and stories.
  • Be authentic. Tell your real-life story and showcase your personality. Admission committees value authentic voices.

Key Takeaways

Enrolling in college is exciting and fun. At the same time, the preparation for enrollment can be incredibly terrifying, especially for first-time students.

While preparing your application, you will have to do plenty of research and paperwork. And, of course, you will need to write a killer admission essay that will set you apart from the competition.

Luckily, after reading this guide, you know how to write an essay for university admission. Use the steps, tips, and examples from this article to ace your essay and enroll in the college of your interest with ease! Also you can always count on our help here you can find professional admission essay writers and they are always ready to help you.

To create this guide, we used the following websites as references: